This international celebration of folk music and dance has become one of the largest May Day celebrations of its kind in the world.
Welcome to the 40th edition of Rochester Sweeps Festival.
This international celebration of folk music and dance has become one of the largest May Day celebrations of its kind in the world. For three days historic Rochester is transformed into a riot of colour and sound with the best musicians and bands on the folk circuit and hundreds of Morris dancers from across the country clattering their clogs and clashing their sticks up and down the high street.
Rochester Sweeps Festival is steeped in tradition, brilliantly unique, truly unforgettable and ever so quirky…and we love it. It is one of the largest gatherings of Morris sides in the world, with the streets, parks, bars and pubs of historic Rochester filled with live folk music and dance over this three-day spectacular.
The 40th festival was due to take place in 2020, however the pandemic prevented us from celebrating, so we will be making up for it in 2022.
Thank you to Gordon Newton, the founder of this festival who revived it in 1981 and is still heavily involved today as the Dance Director, and our brilliant Music Director, Doug Hudson.
30 April-2 May
Bands, musicians and morris dancers will be performing across the bank holiday weekend from 11am until on the main event stages and streets until late afternoon, and at indoor venues across Rochester later into the evening.
Check out our day-by-day guide to which bands are performing when and where.
Want to whet your appetite ahead for the musical treats in store? Read more about this year's musical line-up.
Not to be missed...
Saturday, 30 April
10.45am - Guildhall Museum Forecourt: The Mayor of Medway will officially open the festival, followed by a dance showcase.
12-12.45pm - Rochester Cathedral Crypt: 'And One Red Mitten' The World Premier of late lamented Chris Broderick's song cycle takes place in the Crypt of Rochester Cathedral where Vicky Price sings about Whitechapel victim Catherine Eddowes to honour her spirit and redefine her memory. Instrumentation by Stu Turner and Nick Price. Free entry.
Sunday, 1 May
5.31am Jack-in-the-Green Awakening Ceremony: The awakening ceremony found Morris dancers and sweeps bringing Jack to life at the crack of dawn. Join us at Bluebell Hill picnic area.
Monday, 2 May
2.45pm Sweeps Procession. Starting from Star Hill.
Let the experts from the City of Rochester Society take you on a guided walk. Taking place every day over the festival, starting at the Visitor Information Centre at 10.45am and 2.15pm. The 10.45am tours will take 45 minutes and the 2.15pm tours 90 minutes. Tours are free of charge but donations are welcome.
Folk Instrument Tasters and Penny Whistle Sessions, Saturday-Monday 10am-4pm, The Moat
Drop-in instrument sessions for children. Come and learn technical skills and gain musical understanding of the fiddle, melodeon, accordion, harp, mandolin and bodhran. Plus pre-book a 40-minute focussed penny whistle session. Available on the hour from 11am.
Leaves of the Trees
The Leaves of the Trees is a touring artwork installation by Peter Walker taking place at Rochester Cathedral over the weekend. It was created as a reflective memorial to the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic. A simple but moving artwork creating a moment of connection and calm. Saturday and Monday, 10am-3pm, Sunday, 1pm-3pm. Last admission – 30 minutes before published times. Free of charge, no booking necessary.
Don’t forget to browse the range of stalls in the castle grounds including vegan food, beauty products, wellness and much more.
There is limited parking available in Rochester, so we highly recommend those that are able, consider coming by train or bus. For those who are driving, car parks can be found here.
Arriving by bus
There are many bus stops in and around Rochester, and Rochester is well served by bus routes.
Plan your journey at www.arrivabus.co.uk
Arriving by train
Rochester Train Station is roughly a two-minute walk from the high street. Strood Train Station is under a 10-minute walk. Please visit Southeastern Trains' website to plan your journey.
Park and Walk
Park and Walk is available from Jacksons Field, Rochester. £3 per car, 9am-6pm
Please note: Rochester High Street is categorised as an Alcohol Control Zone. However, close working partnership between Medway Council, Kent Police and Pub Landlords has allowed drinking in outdoor areas within the festival area between the hours of 10am and 6pm only. Drinking restrictions will revert back to normal regulations from 6pm onwards each day of the festival.